Introducing 3D Printing of new smooth, ultra detailed material

Hello, I’m Nancy, the Product Lead of Materials & Content, and I have some exciting news! One month ago, we sent out a survey in which we asked people what they wanted in Shapeways material. We found that the top 2 qualities people were looking for are higher detail material, and smoother material. As you know, our number one priority is our customer, so we quickly went to work. In under a month, we found a new material! Starting today, we will be introducing this new materials in two different settings: Frosted Detail and Frosted Ultra Detail. See for yourself what is possible…

click on the pictures to enlarge

Frosted Ultra Detail vs. Frosted Detail Frosted Ultra Detail painted Frosted Ultra Detail vs. White Detail

As you can see from the pinwheel photo above (the first picture on the left), Frosted Ultra Detail is a crisper, clearer material than Frosted Detail. Also, the thinner pinwheel walls survives printing in the Frosted Ultra Detail material, while the same walls breaks off in Frosted Detail wheel (the wheel on the right).

This is also an improvement over our current detail offerings. First, we will allow interlocking parts with this material, which will enable more complex and interesting designs. The material is also smoother, and less yellow than the current detail material (especially the Frosted Ultra Detail, see the comparison photo above). Lastly, because the support material is easier to clean, less parts will get rejected. In the past, hollow parts with tiny holes were very difficult to clean and would sometimes get rejected, in the Frosted Detail materials, the support material is melted out, simplifying the cleaning process, so upload those complex models and off to the printers they go!

We will be offering Frosted Detail materials on a trial basis for 8 weeks. If the community response is positive, we will keep this material permanent, so be sure to give us plenty of feedback on your experiences (both good and bad) with this and our other detail materials.
Detailed information on the material properties, design rules, and printing process can be found on the Frosted Detail Material Page. Some basic design rules (get ready for a bunch of tiny numbers):

Frosted Detail Frosted Ultra Detail
Minimum wall thickness 0.5 mm 0.3 mm
Minimum detail thickness 0.2 mm 0.1 mm
Interlocking parts accepted, gap between parts must be at least 0.1 mm accepted, gap between parts must be at least 0.05 mm
Price $2.89/cm3 $4.39/cm3

The design rules for this material will evolve as we learn from your items but as a starting point above are our initial rules, keep an eye on materials page for Frosted Detail for the most current rules as this blog post will not be updated.

We sent some samples to active community users, and in the words of Stony Smith (of Wired fame) himself,

Having seen this material first hand, I am very impressed. It’s got what I would call a frosted-ice finish, and has truly super-fine details to it. The existing Transparent Detail material was always a bit yellowish, and this new material has none of that. The material also seems to be a bit harder than the old Detail materials, which seemed a bit “crumbly” or “not fully cooked” at times, not completely solid, whereas this new material feels much more solid. Yes, it’ll still break, but I think the more rigid plastic is what also helps them to achieve the higher level of detail. The only negative I’ve seen is that on (only) one of my prints, there seems to be some rastering or (bubbles?) inside the model that run at an angle to the X,Y and Z axis, but doesn’t appear on the surface.. not sure what that is about. To quote one of my buyers: Argh! I have all this inventory in WD and I wish I could replace it all with FHD! To quote myself: Oh, my carpal tunnel! Now I have to redesign for three times more detail!

To get specific.. for you model train fans out there.. It LOOKS like this material will be more than suitable for shells without a lot of sanding, etc. I can’t wait to try a shell in this material! BD/WD/TD were just not smooth enough to make rivet-counters happy, but this FHD really looks like it’s got potential.

Great feedback Stony, will look into the rastering effect you mention. Everyone, I look forward to seeing your amazing designs become a reality.


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  1. fx2

    Looks great ! Could we know the complete name of the machine ProJet [complete name] ? I think I mentioned this technology in almost every surveys I received from Shapeways, glad to see it became reality !

  2. Todd Bailey

    WOW!!! This looks fantastic! Going to have to put on my design hat and get something going!!!

    1. nancyliang

      Awesome, look forward to seeing your designs!

  3. eTraxx

    Well. This is great. As one of those “model railroad fans” the White Detail just wasn’t fine enough. This may very well be the ticket!

    1. nancyliang

      Haha, that is actually support material trapped inside because the designer left out the holes..

  4. FredrikB

    Excellent and exciting!

    Expect my first order before midnight. 🙂

  5. Bob Davies

    Will be taking a very serious look at this for my train projects

    1. nancyliang

      The photo in the middle is actually a painted example. Is that along the lines of what you’re looking for?

    2. nancyliang

      FYI, that part was painted with Testors Model Master enamels.

    3. Samantha Catanzaro

      Do you know if the frosted ultra detail can be painted with acrylic paint? Do you recommend some sort of primer beforehand?

  6. Davlin

    This is great news, I’m really interested. I’ll make some prints in a very short future. Please keep this one permanent ! 🙂

  7. GWMT

    Nice! What is the layer thickness used by the machine’s software when it slices up a model for printing? Models being printed in White, Strong & Flexible get sliced into 0.15mm layers…

    1. nancyliang

      Can I get back to you on that? I just want to double check!

    2. nancyliang

      Hey! Build layer is 40 micron for FD, and 30 micron for FUD. I will also add these questions/answers to the design rules. After I finish a nifty little thing I will launch soon. 🙂

  8. Bob Davies

    Just place a ‘sample’ order. Looking forward to seeing the results

  9. Glenn Slingsby

    Looks really nice. Will definitely have to design something for the FUD… and like someone else asked – what about the painting of this material? What was used in the sample shown?


    1. nancyliang

      Let me get back to you on that? It was prepped by one of our community members, so I’m not sure of the exact formula he used. I did get feedback that the surface was smooth and did not require much prep for painting though!

    2. nancyliang

      Got the answer! The part was painted with Testors Model Master enamels.

  10. fx2

    The pricing of FUD (!) seems quite high to me. I create 1:87th scale models, and a standard fully equiped railcar costs well beyond $120 in the new material… When I create a model, I’m never 100% sure the assembly will work like expected (you know, on CAD everything is perfect, no gravity, no manufacturing tolerances and no “too big” fingers…). I’m creating a very small shunter scale model to try this new material out, however…

    1. Edward Traxler

      I’m a Model Railroader in 1:48. Currently I’m interested in the parts that I can’t make easily in that scale. For example I scratch-built some 6″ Gate Valves in 1:48 .. they came out pretty good but I would MUCH rather have them printed if possible. If I was looking at producing a number of railcars then it seems to me that th $60-$120 each is feasible if you use them as masters to cast multiple copies in resin.

    2. Stannum 3D

      These frosted materials allow thinner walls than plain white detail or even wsf, so by doing thinner walls (with a reinforcement grid and other supports in non visible parts) the price should be less scary than it sounds. Different material, different rules. It’s a lot easier to reinforce the inner surfaces before assembly and painting, than to smooth the outter ones, after all.

      Take a full pannel (20*100mm, USD prices, no VAT, no start up), in WSF (0.7mm thickness) it would be 2.10, current transparent detail (1mm) 5.54, frosted 2.89 (0.5mm) and ultra (0.3mm) 2.63 or (0.5mm, safer and reusable for plain frosted) 4.39. In factors against the cheapest (wsf, 2.10) 1x, 2.64x, 1.37x, 1.25x, 2.09x. If the detail and smoothness is there, the rest is just (re)designing for the new material.

    3. nancyliang

      I hear ya, but the Ultra Detail takes a longer time to print. So it’s really the machine time that drives up the cost. As with all our material, we will be looking into ways to reduce costs over time.

  11. TurtlesAreCool

    This is exciting! We’ll have to see how my minis come out now… I guess I will hold off on the remaining painting to be done.

  12. GWMT

    I did some digging – the machine specs are here:

    WOW!! Layer thickness is 0.04mm/0.0016in for Frosted Detail with a minimum resolution (think of it as the size of one pixel) of 0.08 x 0.08 x x0.04mm. Frosted Ultra Detail layer thickness is 0.032mm/0.0013in with a min. resolution of 0.04 x 0.04 x 0.032mm.

    Nancy – how much would parts in Xtreme High Definition (layer thickness 0.016mm) cost? Twice the cost of Frosted Ultra Detail?

    @fx2: For most parts of a car Frosted Detail should produce acceptable results. Maybe produce the super-fine detail parts like doors, ends and roof as separate parts in Frosted Ultra Detail that fit into holes in a Frosted Detail carbody. Shrinkage is only 0.002″ per inch so a light pass with a file should fix any fit problems.

    I agree $60-$120 per 1:87 railcar (before details, trucks and couplers) isn’t cheap, but the alternative is dozens of hours spent building from scratch. The way things are progressing that $120 car will probably be $40 in three years with even finer detail.

    Regarding painting, the material is an acrylic so enamel and acrylic paints should work fine.

    Thanks Shapeways!

    1. nancyliang

      I think Xtra Detail would require another machine. Currently we are testing the waters with these two material, maybe in the future we can look into even more detail? For now, I want to be kind to Stony’s carpal tunnel.

  13. Spoors

    Very interesting! I am an HOn30 modeller and had already designed some parts to convert and N-scale Shay locomotive to an HOn30 Shay. I had designed them for a different service provider, but with this new material I should be able to have them printed at Shapeways. Same applies to a part for a wholestick sugar cane truck. I have already ordered them and am curious to see the result. Will post some pics of them on the forum, once they have arrived.

    1. Edward Traxler

      Yep. Same here in that I have had some On30 stuff printed elsewhere .. simply because of the resolution, some of which I had planned to reproduce in resin because of costs. With this new material from Shapeways I went ahead and just ordered the quantity I needed. Like you, I am curious (and hopeful) that they meet my needs

    2. nancyliang

      Look forward to your posts!

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